The best poems by Keats
John Keats (1795-1821) died when he was just twenty-five years old, but he left behind a substantial body of work, considering he died so young. Nevertheless, a number of his poems immediately suggest themselves as being among the ‘best’ of his work. In this post, we’ve selected what we think are the top ten best Keats poems.
‘Ode to Psyche’. The earliest of Keats’s 1819 odes, ‘Ode to Psyche’ is about the Greek embodiment of the soul and mind, Psyche. Keats declares that he will be Psyche’s ‘priest’ and build a temple to her in his mind. Although this is probably the least-admired of Keats’s classic odes (though ‘Ode on Indolence’ would rival it), it’s a fine paean to poetic creativity and the power of the imagination. Read the rest of this entry
A critical reading of an iconic poem
‘The Tyger’ is arguably the most famous poem written by William Blake (1757-1827); it’s difficult to say which is more well-known, ‘The Tyger’ or the poem commonly known as ‘Jerusalem’. The poem’s opening line, ‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright’ is among the most famous opening lines in English poetry (it’s sometimes modernised as ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright’). Below is this iconic poem, followed by a brief analysis of the poem’s language, imagery, and meaning.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire? Read the rest of this entry
A reading of one of Keats’s best sonnets
John Keats wrote a number of sonnets in his short life, and ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ remains a popular and widely anthologised one. Some words of analysis are useful in highlighting the relevance of Keats’s imagery in this poem, as well as the form and language of the sonnet. The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet rhyming ababcdcdefefgg, which is particularly appropriate here, since in this poem Keats is preoccupied with dying prematurely, before he has had a chance to write his best work and take his place ‘among the English poets’ (as Keats himself put it).
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink. Read the rest of this entry